A Wisconsin judge on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse innocent in the shooting deaths of two men during a protest rally in Kenosha last year, closing a case on gun rights and racism.
Rittenhouse, 18, of nearby Antioch, Illinois, was acquitted of all five charges related to his actions on August 25 last year, amid protests over the shooting death of a black man, Jacob Blake, a white Kenosa police officer.
Rittenhouse has been charged with culpable homicide in the assassination of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and culpable homicide in the death of Anthony Huber, 26.
He also faces a charge of attempted murder by seriously injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a Milwaukee paramedic who was there that night volunteering for medical treatment, and two counts of endangering safety.
Rittenhouse, dressed in a black suit and burgundy shirt, was filled with grief during the reading of the fifth sentence of innocence in court.
Twice he hugged the defendant's lawyer Corey Chirafisi, who had to tell his client to relax and breathe.
Defendant's attorney Mark Richards clapped his hands on the table happily during the sentencing hearing, while prosecutors looked down as the judge's findings were announced.
The families of those shot dead are holding hands in court as decisions are read out.
After three and a half days of discussions, some on the panel appeared tired from the judges' box. As these decisions were being read, some were putting their hands on their hips, rubbing their eyes and looking uncomfortable, changing their seats or folding their arms across their chests.
A judge of seven women and five men has been interviewing for about 25 hours since Tuesday morning, and Richards said he feared longer negotiations would mean a postponement of decisions that would put his client in jail for at least some time.
"As time went on, we were afraid that there was a horse trade in the courtroom and that was what really bothered us," said Richards.
Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder thanked the judges for their work.
"I would not ask for a better judge to work with," Schroeder said. "It has really been my pleasure ... about your attention and the cooperation you have given us."
The judge told the judges that the system was working.
"It proves the confidence the founders of our country have put in you," Schroeder said.
The Kenosha Regional Attorney General's Office has asked members of the public to "continue to express their views and feelings on this decision in a peaceful and orderly manner."
"While we are disappointed with the decision, we must respect it," the office said in a statement. "We are very grateful to the members of the judiciary for their diligent and thoughtful discussion. The Kenosha community has been very patient over the past 15 months, but we are still strong and resilient."
Wisconsin government spokesman Tony Evers has called for calm ahead of the decision but has sent 500 National Guard awaiting post-election protests.
"No decision will be made to restore the life of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum or to heal the injury of Gaige Grosskreutz as no decision can heal the wounds or trauma suffered by Jacob Blake and his family," Evers said in a statement after the decision.
“I have seen the pain and frustration of many so we must remain steadfast in our commitment to ending violence in our communities.